“I’ve been sent here to kill someone who probably doesn’t deserve it, and my only justification for it is some absurd adherence to a code of honour no one here understands or even respects.”
While reading the book I was a little bothered by the protagonist's motivation which did not make a lot of sense to me. Suddenly Alastair Reynolds addressed my problem directly and things begin to fall into place. This book is a very intricately plotted sf novel with strong element of a noir thriller, but the emphasis is definitely on the sci-fi. On the face of it, the book may initially seem like a straightforward story of revenge. The main character Tanner Mirabel is chasing a man who killed his best friend and the love of his life but made the mistake of leaving him alive. The chase requires quite a bit of interstellar travel, part of which is even on a space elevator which brings to mind Arthur C. Clarke’s [b:The Fountains of Paradise|149049|The Fountains of Paradise|Arthur C. Clarke|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1344265959s/149049.jpg|734510] . The structure of the book is almost linear but not quite, as two different stands of flashback sequences are also woven into the main story arc. In lesser hands this sort of skipping back and forth along the timeline can cause a lot of confusion for the readers, but kudos to Mr. Reynolds for the clarity of his writing, even without any chapter labeling the reader is never confused.
In spite of the crime fiction influence the sci-fi aspect of the story is thankfully the strongest element. Reynolds is at the forefront of the sf genre for a reason, here is an author who is seemingly put upon the earth to write sf, it is either coded in his DNA or God is a sf fan, take your pick. While the story is not epic in scale as it mainly focuses on the protagonist’s adventures it is set in a brilliantly imagined universe. Chasm City is set in the **Rev space** universe but is not a continuation of that book. It is basically a standalone with brief mentions of some things from that book. Most of the book is set in the titular Chasm City, an amazing place where buildings and machinery are infected with a plague that infect nanomachines and mutate them into weird nightmarishly shaped things. What it does to people I will leave you to discover for yourself.
What makes Reynolds stand out from most other sf writers today is that he can spin a great yarn, he knows his science very well, and he cares about creating believable and interesting characters with real motivations. Most importantly for sf, he is extremely good at world building, creating astounding yet believable and vivid places and life forms, if you are looking for escapism he is your man.
There are quite a few scientists who are writing sf but (IMO) Reynolds is the best story teller and prose stylist among them. His characters do not simply wear white hats or black hats, they tend to have quite believable motivations. His prose is accessible without coming across as having been dumbed down for the semi-literates. He even slipped in the occasional flashes of humor, mostly through ironic dialogues, and the end of the book even includes some lyrical passages.
Who would I recommend this book to?
Basically you, who is reading this review. If you are interested enough to read this review this far this book is for you!